This project aimed to generate georeferenced weed infestation maps of selected annual crops (wheat, sunflower and maize) and permanent woody crops (olive-tree and poplar orchards) by using aerial images collected with an Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drone.
The specific objectives of this project were concentrated on:
- To define and evaluate the technical specifications of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and the multispectral camera needed for capturing high-quality imagery of each proposed crop-weed systems.
- To determine the best flight configuration (UAV altitude, area covered and imagery resolution) for each crop in different crop-weed phenological stages (temporal study).
- To georeference, mosaic and orthorectificate the frames to generate a unique image (mosaicked) that completely covers the fields of study.
- To develop and evaluate Object-Based Image Analysis (OBIA) algorithms for crop assessment and weed mapping.
- To generate georeferenced weed infestation maps for making in season site-specific herbicide treatments in early crop stages (post-emergence) that, consequently, lead to considerable decrease in the use of herbicide, a reduction in farm costs and an increase in agro-environmental benefits.
The techniques to reach the ultimate socio-economic (and environmental) objective, optimizing the use and doses of herbicides through site-specific weed management (SSWM) techniques by applying them only to weed infested areas in fields of proposed annual and permanent woody crops, are in line with the European policy for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides, which promotes reductions in herbicide applications and the utilisation of adequate doses according to the weed infestation.
In this line, the successful implementation of the TOAS project would lead to a 15-35% reduction in farm costs and a 20-30% decrease in the use of crop protection chemicals, doing evident the potential contributions to reduce agricultural cost and thus enhance European competitiveness in the agricultural regions.
Regarding the prospects of the research career development and re-integration of the fellow of this project, the investigator was awarded in 2014 a “Ramon y Cajal”, granted in the area of the agriculture that conducted to a 5-year contract in the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (IAS-CSIC).